Vice President Harris meets with Divine Nine as White House is pressed on voting rights

EXCLUSIVE: As the nation's first sitting Divine Nine vice president met with Black Greek Letter Organizations, members of the press sought answers from Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Biden's Black agenda

Vice President Kamala Harris walked into the Ceremonial Room of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, just west of the White House, for an afternoon discussion with a coalition of Black Greek Letter Organization leaders on Wednesday to tackle some of the nation’s most pressing issues facing Black America — voting rights, minority business development and vaccinating Black communities. 

The group of Divine Nine representatives broke out into applause upon Vice President Harris’s arrival and the cheers were heard several times by reporters before they were allowed in to hear from the nation’s first Divine Nine member to serve as U.S. vice president.

TheGrio was among the reporters ushered into the room where Vice President Harris sat at the head of a long rectangle wooden antique table that was flanked by the national and international leaders of the Panhellenic organizations. 

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks at the start of a roundtable discussion on voting rights for people living with disabilities in her ceremonial office in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on July 14, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Harris spoke to reporters before delving into the discussion with the leaders. She said, “at my invitation, my Divine Nine family” is here understanding  history, “the current and the future falls on leadership.” After the statement, the vice president did not answer reporters’ questions on the filibuster and what the White House plans to commit to on the Black agenda, particularly on voting rights.

In 1913, some of the founders of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated participated in the suffragette parade in Washington D.C. Due to racism, the women were not recognized but walked in the back of the line for the right to vote. Fast forward to 2021, the right to vote has been crippled with Supreme Court decisions and states like Texas and Georgia’s restrictive voting laws.

On the Northwest Driveway of the White House after the sit down with Harris, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. President Beverly Smith said, “it was a wonderful meeting.” Smith went on to say, “we talked about a lot of good things” and that “voting rights is always a part of any discussion.”

Although Harris is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., she has always put a focus on the unity of the Divine Nine. Her sorority’s international president, Dr. Glenda Glover, sat at the head of the table of the group of Black Greek sorority and fraternity leaders.

A bit later in the day in the White House Press Briefing Room the question on the urgency of voting rights was placed before Jen Psaki, White House press secretary.  

“And he is frustrated that, despite everything that’s happened around the country, there isn’t more of a movement to get this done — I don’t mean by activists; certainly, there’s a movement there — in Congress,” Psaki said. “And so, I would convey to activists that he is absolutely committed. He wants to get this done. He wants to sign it into law.”

The question remains, if President Joe Biden is frustrated with the lack of legislative movement on voting rights, what will he do? When asked, Psaki returned with a question of what should he do? TheGrio’s retort questioned whether President Biden would aid the Vice President Harris’s portfolio issue of voting rights with support by supporting the end of the filibuster so that action on voting rights can proceed. 

Psaki said President Biden, the leader of the Democratic Party, is not moving on abolishing the filibuster to fix voting rights. Meanwhile, there are talks about a carve out of the Senate procedural tool in order for Congress to raise the debt ceiling, bypassing Senate Republican opposition. 

There are growing and percolating concerns among Democrats that voting rights is not as much of a pressing issue for this White House as they are courting moderate Democrats who don’t necessarily see this issue as important. The face of the fight for voting rights is Black and has been for decades but in 2021 it is an issue that hits every community with new restrictions and negative applications. 

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